Saint Paul, Release the Hounds!

In the past, residents on St. Paul's West Side that wanted to take their four-legged canine friends to an off-leash dog park needed to travel to Minneapolis.  Dog lovers, that may be changing quite soon!  On Wednesday, the St. Paul Parks Commission approved a plan to build several off-leash dog parks, ranging from "destination" parks to "neighborhood" parks, with a promise to satisfy a range of dog lovers.

Included in the recommendations is having special little parks for little dogs.  At these parks, larger breeds of dogs can be in one area away from the smaller dogs in another fenced in area so like can play with like.  City leaders foresee something for everyone.

As spokesman for Mayor Chris Coleman said on Wednesday after the release of a task force report on the topic, "They will be a welcome addition to our nationally recognized parks system."

Coleman formed the task force earlier this year during a series of State of the City meetings. The usual taxes, public safety, and traffic concerns all surfaced during the forums, but the unexpectedly overpowering message from attendees: Give us more dog parks.

Right now, the City of Saint Paul only operates one park with an off-leash area for dogs: Arlington/Arkwright, on the East Side. An off-leash area at Ramsey County's Battle Creek Regional Park, across the Maplewood line, is also popular with St. Paul dog owners.

The task force's recommendations call for talks to begin immediately for two other city parks.  They also call for a subcommittee of the Parks Commission to consider other locations. The commission approved the recommendations later on Wednesday evening.

The subcommittee will rate potential park sites for the off-leash areas.  Officials will also be sure to consult with neighborhood residents to determine whether a specific park works for them. So far, two possible locations have surfaced: Bluff Park on the West Side and "Island Station," a chunk of private land along the Mississippi River near Randolph Avenue envisioned as a future park.

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